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Majority of Asian-American elders, families targeted by fraud and scams, survey finds

Seventy-two percent of respondents reported being exposed to at least one instance of fraud. About 1 in 8 respondents suffered financial loss.
by Chris Fuchs /  / Updated 

An overwhelming majority of Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders age 50 and older say that they or their families have been targets of fraud, while a third of all victims lost on average $15,000, according to a new report.

The findings come from a survey released Tuesday by AARP, a nonprofit advocacy group for the aging.

Seventy-two percent of respondents reported being exposed to at least one instance of fraud, the most common involving a foreign lottery, charitable donations, and virus tech support.

And nearly 4 in 10 said they or their families had fallen victim to at least one type of fraud — even though a majority of those surveyed said they were at least somewhat confident in their ability to identify a fraudulent pitch or offer. Of those victimized by fraud, approximately one-third suffered financial loss, on average $15,246.

“There is not a lot of information on what AAPIs 50 and older were experiencing when it came to fraud and scams,” Daphne Kwok, AARP vice president of multicultural leadership, Asian American and Pacific Islander audience strategy, said in an email. “We conducted this survey, so we could better understand those experiences and raise awareness in a culturally relevant way.”

A total of 1,120 phone interviews were conducted between Oct. 2 and Nov. 6, 2017, in English, Mandarin, Cantonese, Tagalog, Vietnamese and Korean. The survey has a margin of error of about 3 percent at the 95 percent confidence level.

Also in the findings:

  • Thirty-four percent of those exposed to fraud did not tell anyone. For those who did, a majority (51 percent) told only family or friends, while 38 percent told both family and friends and a formal agency or office. Those with limited spoken English were less likely to turn to police.
  • Nearly 3 in 4 said they felt somewhat, very or extremely confident in their ability to identify a fraudulent pitch or offer, yet most (71 percent) failed a true/false test designed to assess knowledge of fraudulent practices.

More than a third of Asian American and Pacific Islander adults in the 50-and-over bracket also said either they or someone in their family fell prey to the kind of fraud typically discovered only after it happens, the report said.

The three most common types included unauthorized card charges, identity theft, and home improvement fraud.

Limited English proficiency was also one of several factors associated with a greater experience of fraud in the people surveyed.

In 2016, 15.4 million people became fraud victims in the U.S., according to an Identity Fraud Study by business advisory firm Javelin Strategy & Research released last year. Total losses amounted to $16 billion.

Financial toll aside, the negative impact to a fraud victims’ physical, emotional and mental well-being is much more common, according to AARP.

More than 7 in 10 surveyed said they experienced at least one such associated symptom. Topping the list were anger, stress or anxiety, and difficulty sleeping.

The report did note several limitations.

One involved the survey’s reliance on self-reporting, which it said may result in an underestimate if groups are less likely to acknowledge they’ve been scammed.

Another was being unable to determine if some people were more likely to self-report fraud exposure because they’d been targeted more often or because they were more equipped to spot it.

AARP says family members can support fraud victims by taking steps like listening empathetically, asking questions to understand how the fraud occurred, and focusing frustration and anger on the scam and fraudster, not the victim.

“Awareness and education really is key to preventing fraud,” Kwok said. “The more conversations we can spark within the community and families around this issue, the less likely AAPIs will become victims.”

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